Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, Jr. signed an order on Thursday holding in abeyance state sanctions against the municipal and county governments of Whitfield County for failing to come to an agreement on a new Service Delivery Strategy (SDS).
The order holds off sanctions until May 1, 2020, while the parties take part in a mandatory mediated negotiation.
Under Georgia law, cities and counties are required to negotiate a new SDS every 10 years. The SDS determines which services will be provided by each government and also how they will be funded.
An extension of the existing SDS in Whitfield County expired on Oct. 31, after the parties were unable to come to an agreement during negotiations that included a face-to-face mediation on Oct. 17.
Due to the failure to come to a new SDS agreement, the governments of Dalton and the other county and municipal governments of Whitfield County would have been subject to sanctions from the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) including the loss of qualified status to receive state financial assistance or grants.
Judge Van Pelt’s order directs the DCA to hold off on imposing those sanctions, allowing the governments of Whitfield County to operate as usual while the mandatory mediation of the SDS negotiation takes place.
Mandatory mediation is the next step under the state’s SDS law (OCGA 36-70-25.1) to resolve a service delivery dispute between governments.
The City of Dalton petitioned for a mandatory mediation after the parties failed to come to an agreement by the Oct. 31st deadline and Judge Van Pelt was appointed to preside over the proceedings on Nov. 8.
On Tuesday, Judge Van Pelt appointed Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs to serve as mediator for negotiations.
The City of Dalton joined Whitfield County and the other municipal governments to jointly petition for DCA sanctions to be lifted during negotiations, and that order was granted Thursday.